INDIANAPOLIS -- Jerrell Freeman and D’Qwell Jackson, the Indianapolis Colts' top two tacklers, were dressing side-by-side in the locker room after their victory over Atlanta on Sunday when Jackson looked off in the distance and said, “That young fella can really hit.”
“Man, can he!” Freeman responded.
The player Freeman and Jackson were talking about was rookie safety Clayton Geathers.
Geathers, the Colts’ fourth-round pick, made his first start of the season against the Falcons and showed why he’s the team’s safety of the future when he finished with a career-high eight tackles. One of Geathers’ tackles was so fierce that it unfortunately knocked Falcons running back Devonta Freeman out of the game with a concussion.
“I thought Geathers stepping in for Mike [Adams] had a heck of a ball game,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “He was all over the place, big hits, tipped balls. I mean he was outstanding, special teams. The kid played a really good football game.”
Geathers started that game because Adams, one of the league leaders in interceptions, was out with an ankle injury. Geathers found out in the middle of last week that he would get the start. The message to him was not to step on the field and act like a rookie. Adams took it a step further with his message. He told Geathers to “go out and have fun, believe in what you can do, be confident and fly around.” Geathers had spent a portion of the season as a dime linebacker on the team’s defensive unit.
“I like making contact out there, putting my facemask on people,” Geathers said.
In the days leading up to the game, Geathers often arrived almost an hour before meetings in the morning to get a jump on preparation for the game because the last thing he wanted was for there to be a drastic drop off between he and Adams.
“He rose up and met the challenge, but he put the time in,” Pagano said. “He beat everybody here. Every single morning he was with his coaches. The hit he put on Freeman was unbelievable. He shot through there, made plays, forced the interception in the end zone on the second possession after the fumble. He played with a lot of energy, a lot of physicality, and a lot of passion.”